Friday, February 8, 2008

Ritter, Lawmakers Introduce Consolidated State IT Department Bill

Flanked by a group of bipartisan legislators, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Friday the introduction of a bill that would consolidate all information technology operations of the state government in one office.

The bill, which does not have a number as of this writing, will be sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, and John P. Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and in the House by Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, and Rep. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood. It has 74 co-sponsors already, according to a press release issued by Ritter's media relations office.

"Information technology is the backbone of how we deliver services to the people of Colorado," Ritter said. "But we have too many examples of under-performing and even failing computer systems. We have twice the number of computer servers we need. We have 38 data centers, when other states do just fine with two. We have a decentralized IT purchasing structure, when we should be maximizing our buying power instead of diffusing it."

The state has had a number of embarrassing information technology problems in recent years. During the administration of former Gov. Bill Owens (R), the state spent more than $300 million on a system that was supposed to handle a wide variety of government services. Workers managed to get the complicated software to do some of what it was supposed to do, but there were complaints from state employees that no one in senior levels of the executive branch would listen to their concerns about the computer problems.

Buescher said he was glad a solution to the state's oft-repeated and systemic computer problems is in the works but indicated he thinks it took too long.

"As a businessman, I never would have tolerated the discombobulated IT systems we endured for over a decade in this state," Buescher said. "I'm glad we're finally correcting it."

Introduction of the bill follows Ritter's issuance of an executive order in May that appointed a state IT officer and asked him to come up with recommendations for improving state government technology services.